I recently spent a part of my Friday night watching an ABC News 20/20 special report on the 13 siblings rescued in 2018 about an hour east of Los Angeles. At the time of the rescue, the Turpin brothers and sisters ranged in ages from two to 29. Their story, like so many other child neglect stories, is a level past heartbreaking.
The Turpin parents, David and Louise, who are now serving life sentences for their years of abuse, locked the children in their homes, chained them to beds, and provided them with little to eat and drink. At the time of the rescue, 12 of the 13 siblings were severely underweight and hadn’t bathed for several months. According to doctors who treated the Turpin 13, only the two-year-old showed no signs of being abused.
But this story runs deeper than monster parents who treat their children in ways most of us could never imagine. The Turpin siblings walked away from what they called a “House of Horrors” straight into a social services system of horrors!
After their rescue, more than $500,000 in donations were raised by groups in California for their care. Other donations filtered in nationwide. According to ABC News, the money was placed in a trust that is controlled by a public guardian appointed by the court. But if you watched the ABC News special, you heard three of the Turpin siblings shockingly tell stories of not having access to the money. 29-year-old Joshua Turpin told ABC News was told by the public guardian to “Just Google it” when he requested information to access some of the money for a mode of transportation. A bike! “I called the public guardian and she refused to let me request a bike,” he said. That same public guardian can be seen on her Facebook page enthusiastically offering her services as a real estate agent.
ABC News also reported the Executive Officer for Riverside County, Jeff Van Waganen, said his office hired a law firm, run by a former federal judge, to “analyze the services provided and quality of care they received.” That report is due by the end of March 2022. March? Are you kidding me! The Turpin siblings, and countless numbers struggling to survive in the social services system, need better care now!
“The County of Riverside is committed to conducting a thorough and transparent review of the services provided to the Turpin siblings and to improve and strengthen the County’s child welfare and dependent adult systems,” added Van Waganen.
But isn’t that what we hear too often? An office reacting to incredibly negative publicity. All the while, thousands of kids, all over the country, need help right now. They need hardworking, compassionate, and caring public servants focused on helping those who are usually too young or unskilled, through no fault of their own, to help themselves.
But that’s where someone(s) at a higher pay grade than me has to do a better job than we’ve seen for too many years. The most recent data released (2019) by the Health and Human Service’s Children’s Bureau showed 656,000 children in the United States were determined, by investigation, to be victims of maltreatment. As for the number of children who received proper prevention and post-response services? Well, if that number isn’t 656,000, then we haven’t learned from the stories of 5-year-old Terrell Peterson of Atlanta, two-year-old Emma Rose Bingaman of Michigan, and 6-year-old Eliza Izquierdo of Brooklyn.
It shouldn’t take an ABC News 20/20 special report on the Turpin’s “House of Horrors” to take action.
– by guest columnist Anthony Pittman